London MENA Film Festival Focus: Children of the Arab World

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faces of the middle east
Last years event featured a special FACES OF THE MIDDLE EAST exhibition by Hermoine Macura at the Burnei Gallery at SOAS, London. Photo – LMFF

Currently in it’s second year, the 2012 London MENA Film Festival showcased a strong variety of films from the Middle East and beyond. Hermoine Macura discovers this year’s festival focus.

Following a successful pilot launch last year, the London MENA (Middle East & North Africa) Film Festival kicked off its first full edition on October 26th with the UK premiere of the Algerian/Moroccan production, ‘How Big Is Your Love?’ at the Tricycle Cinema. Set in modern Algeria, the film tells the story of an eight-year-old boy who goes to stay with his grandmother for the weekend. Two days turn into a week and soon Adel feels like he’s lived there forever. Attempting to grow closer, his grandparents involve him in their everyday lives in this poignant and touching story about childhood and love.

london mena film festival
Festival founder and Director, Yasmin Al Derby. Photo – LMFF

The theme of this year’s festival was children: A generation growing up in an environment of conflict and despair – both a tragic casualty and the beacon of hope for the region. Founder and Festival Director, Yasmin Al Derby explains. “Many of the films we received told stories from the point of view of a child. This often makes a film more universal and accessible – whatever country or culture you are coming from….I felt these stories which used children touched upon a human element that everyone can relate too…”

This year’s event attracted filmmakers from across the MENA region, as well as some from the Arab Diaspora in Europe and also some British filmmakers who were filming in the region.

Another moving feature film was Nassim Abassi’s “Majid” which tells the story of a ten-year-old Moroccan orphan, who discovers that he can’t remember his parents’ faces anymore and that there are no photographs of them apart from the charred remains of a family photo with his parents’ heads burnt away.

moroccan film london mena festival
A screen grab of a scene from the movie “Majid”. Photo – LMFF

The 2012 edition ran for eight days and focused on revealing the contemporary DNA of the Arab region. Al Derby describes why Arab films remain a wonderful medium to break down cultural and religious boundaries and educate people about one another. “Middle Eastern film can offer audiences in the UK who may not know much about Arab culture ­­– an alternative to the stereotypes we often see in the mainstream media.”

Since the Arab Spring of 2011, the world is more aware than ever that the Arab people have a voice and there has never been a more important time to showcase the work of its filmmakers.

Visitors at this year’s festival, experienced eight days packed with brilliant film screenings and informative talks with directors. The LMFF 2012 screened five feature films, four feature documentaries and a huge number of shorts – both narrative and documentary. The London MENA Film Festival (LMFF) aims to be the go to place for Middle Eastern and North African cinema in London. The organizers also hope to create a culture of inclusivity and avoiding one of difference.

Hermoine Macura is the first Australian female English speaking TV News Anchor in the Middle East, and also one of the area’s most recognized faces. Prior to establishing Straight Street Media in 2012, Hermoine was one of the main Anchor’s on Dubai One TV’s Emirates News. Her first book, FACES OF THE MIDDLE EAST was published in 2010.

Faces of the Middle East by Hermoine Macura

FACES OF THE MIDDLE EAST is a book that aims to introduce the various ethnic and social groups who reside throughout the Middle East, proof that this part of the world is not, as many in the West mistakenly believe, a monolithic culture.

Neither a definitive story nor a political statement, FACES OF THE MIDDLE EAST, is the culmination of more then seven years of Photojournalism that documents the existence and rich diversity present in the region.

Order a copy online at www.straightstreetmedia.ae

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